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William Pesek Jr. is a columnist for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.
`Womenomics' Good for Japan and Investors: William Pesek Jr.
Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- In August 1999, Kathy Matsui raised many a male eyebrow in Japan with a report on how the future of the No.2 economy was in women's hands. Goldman Sachs (Japan) Ltd.'s chief strategist called the phenomenon ``womenomics.''
Part of Matsui's analysis was that tapping just the male half of Japan's population lowered the quality of the national labor pool and, ultimately, gross domestic product. Discrimination also exacerbates Japan's biggest long-term challenge: a low birthrate.
It came out at a time when politicians were increasingly deriding career women who don't bear children as selfish and overeducated. Young women refusing to marry and have kids -- many of whom live with their parents -- were labeled ``parasite singles.''
Yet six years on, Matsui senses some promising cracks in Japan's glass ceiling, especially now with the economy on the mend.
``While much more progress still needs to be made at both the public and private sector levels to foster greater female labor participation, we believe Japan is finally moving in the right direction,'' Matsui says.
Moreover, investors should begin looking at industries poised to benefit from her view that ``womenomics is likely to become a secular investment theme.'' Notice Matui's use of the word ``secular,'' not ``cyclical.''
In a new report, Matsui recommends a basket of 115 companies that may get a boost from increased female purchasing power. They include industries related to daycare, nursing care, real estate, financial services, online and mail-order retailing, beauty, prepared foods, apparel and accessories, furniture, entertainment and placement agencies. (The list of companies is attached to this column).
Women are still an under-utilized asset in this nation of 127 million people and they are paid a fraction of what men get. Japan's glass ceiling still keeps many well-educated, experienced and ambitious women out of corporate boardrooms, unless they're serving tea to the men running sitting around the table.
Also, the lack of an affordable infrastructure for women who want to work and raise children means motherhood is often a career-ending prospect. Until more mothers can have careers too, the birthrate won't increase, leaving Japan with a long-term labor shortage. What politicians don't realize is that the low birthrate is a form of rebellion.
Investors Get Ready
Quietly, though, things may be improving, a trend personified by Fumiko Hayashi and Tomoyo Nonaka. Earlier this year, Hayashi, 59, was named chief executive of retailer Daiei Inc. and Nonaka, 51, became chief executive of Sanyo Electric Co. They're the first women to run major Japanese companies.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also has realized women deserve better. In late 2004, he announced the government would ``provide assistance so that women can exert their talents and take on challenges in various areas, including business.'' In last month's elections, Koizumi encouraged a number of female candidates to run for office.
Anecdotal data also tell the story. ``Out of economic necessity or as a result of lifestyle choices, an increasing portion of Japanese women are actively participating in the workforce and becoming a very important source of income and consumption growth,'' Matsui points out.
Gender and GDP
Women have been a powerful economic force for some time. Since many single females live with their parents, they pay little rent and have a disproportionate amount of disposable income. Take away their spending at department stores, travel agencies and fancy eateries and some of the men standing in the way of gender equality probably wouldn't have jobs.
That dynamic will only grow as companies warm to entrusting key jobs to women, especially now that Japan's recovery is encouraging employers to hire again. That's an important development in a nation that's reluctant to ease immigration laws to import labor.
As of 2004, the ratio of women in the labor force was still low by developing-nation standards at 55 percent. That compares with 62 percent in the U.S. and 61 percent in the U.K. If the female labor participation rose toward U.S. levels, Matsui says, Japan would add between 1.2 percent and 1.5 percent to GDP.
Further to Go
All this has more to do with Japan's debt woes than many economists acknowledge.
During the 1990s, Japan built roads, bridges and dams to create jobs -- all of it financed with public borrowing. Politicians used untold amounts of taxpayer funds bailing out deadbeat companies and supporting the banks propping them up. The result wasn't rapid growth or surging stocks, but deflation and a debt load of roughly 150 percent of GDP.
Things might have turned out differently if Tokyo had tried a solution many international economists -- including those at the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation -- said might help: empowering women.
Politicians and business leaders need to get more serious about tapping the female workforce. If not, growth may underperform and Japan's debt may be harder to reduce. It comes down to a simple choice: more babies or more bonds?
Were Japanese female labor participation rates to hit U.S. levels, per capita income would be 5.8 percent higher, Matsui says. Such girl power would provide a nice boost to Asia's biggest economy.
To contact the writer of this column:
William Pesek Jr. in Tokyo at email@example.com
Last Updated: October 20, 2005 21:18 EDT
The New York Times
October 21, 2005
The Japanese War Shrine
To the Editor:
Re "Asians Angered, Again, by Visit to War Shrine by Japan Leader" (news article, Oct. 18):
If Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi seeks to use the Yasukuni visit to demonstrate his personal principle and fortitude, he has picked the wrong fight, because its diplomatic cost clearly outweighs its domestic benefits. Placating Japan's far-right and "war aggrieved" communities, the visit further strains Japan's relations with its neighbors, raises questions about Japan's honesty with its wartime past, and hinders Japan's quest to become a "normal nation."
Mr. Koizumi can better demonstrate his leadership by honoring Japan's war dead at a less controversial monument or publicly disassociating the 14 Class A war criminals from the other 2.5 million souls. He should do this because it's the right thing to do, not because China demands it.
Vincent Wei-cheng Wang
Richmond, Va., Oct. 18, 2005
The writer is an associate professor of political science and international studies, University of Richmond.
Ex-FDA Official Questions Plan B Decision
By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
Mon Oct 17, 6:18 PM ET
The former top women's health official at the FDA said Monday that she believes the agency's refusal to approve over-the-counter sales of a morning-after contraception pill was on orders from above.
"I don't think FDA was acting independently," said Susan Wood, who resigned in August after the Food and Drug Administration issued its decision on the contraceptive, called Plan B.
Hers is a serious charge for an agency that was chartered to base its decisions on science, not politics. Both an independent advisory committee and the agency's scientific staff had recommended Plan B as safe for over-the-counter sales.
Plan B is opposed by religious conservatives who say it will promote promiscuity, particularly in young people. It uses a large dose of a common birth-control drug that can prevent conception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. It is not an abortion pill.
Wood said she did not take part in the agency's decision and does not know for certain who made the call. The final authority rested with then-FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, who resigned recently. The FDA reports to the Health and Human Services Department, which in turn reports to the White House.
Wood spoke to reporters after addressing the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.
Wood said Crawford's acting replacement, Andrew von Eschenbach, should quickly approve Plan B, which is now only available through prescription, making it more difficult to obtain in an emergency. If von Eschenbach doesn't, she said, "we'll know it isn't his decision. We'll know by his actions whether he is independent."
In an interview after his appointment last month, Von Eschenbach said he would review the Plan B issue but declined to discuss it further.
Wood, a biologist, joined FDA's women's health office in 2000, after directing women's health programs at its parent agency, the Health and Human Services Department. She has worked as a research scientist and a congressional adviser.
In 2004, the FDA announced it was rejecting Barr Pharmaceuticals' application for over-the-counter sales of Plan B, citing concern about young teens' use of the pills without a doctor's guidance.
The manufacturer reapplied, proposing the age limit that could be enforced just like drugstores enforce age limits on cigarette sales, but Crawford announced in August that any decision was on hold, saying that the agency didn't know how to enforce an age limit.
He opened the question to public comment for 60 days, but he wouldn't say how soon after that FDA would rule.
The original 2004 announcement sparked intense criticism from some in Congress who then sought an inquiry by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm.
The GAO's report has not been issued, but some senators have been critical of the FDA after reviewing a draft.
"The draft GAO report appears to confirm what we have suspected for some time: science was compromised in the FDA's decision making process on Plan B," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in a statement. "It is essential that the FDA be the gold standard in drug approval, and science must come before politics or ideology."
The draft says that several senior FDA scientists refused to sign the letter rejecting Plan B, so their boss, Dr. Steven Galson, acting director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, signed it, according to a congressional aide. It also notes unusual involvement from Crawford's office, the aide said.
The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not been released.
On the Net:
Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov
〔連載〕続 アメリカ医療の光と影～ピル（医療と性と政治）(1)(2) - 週刊医学界新聞
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2005/10/20 20:03 共同
Parents Cast Fight as Sexual vs. Religious Tolerance
A Massachusetts father is a hero to people angry at what they call schools' 'gay agenda.'
By Stephanie Simon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 20, 2005
LEXINGTON, Mass. — David and Tonia Parker are asking their neighbors in this liberal town for one consideration:
The Parkers believe homosexuality is immoral. So they were appalled when their son brought a picture book home from kindergarten that showed families with same-sex parents.
To ensure his "spiritual safety," they demanded the right to pull him out of class whenever homosexuality was discussed.
To deny them that right, they say, would be intolerant of their faith.
School administrators offer a different take on tolerance.
They say it's their job to expose children to the world's diversity.
Supt. Paul B. Ash refuses to whisk the Parkers' son away if a classmate with same-sex parents brings a family photo for show-and-tell, or a lesbian couple volunteers at the Halloween party.
Similar debates have roiled communities across the nation as conservative parents challenge classes, books and after-school activities that they say promote a one-sided view of homosexuality as normal. They have notched victories in several states.
But the dispute here has gone further than most.
David Parker has been banned from school property. Ash has been flooded with hate mail from across the country. There have been protests and counter-protests; the local newspaper received so many letters, many condemning the Parkers as bigots that the editor stopped printing them.
Ash talks of the school's obligation "to be more than tolerant" to children and parents of all backgrounds.
Parker asks: Where's the tolerance for him?
"Real respect, real tolerance, is not pushing your beliefs on other people," Parker said. "What people do in their bedroom, that's their business. What they tell my children in school about these subjects — that's my business."
Parker, 43, was so upset at the response to his demand that he refused to leave after a meeting with administrators at Joseph Estabrook School in April.
Police arrested him. Parker declined to post bail and spent the night in jail; his trespassing trial is set for today. For now, the district has banned him from school property.
Parker has become a celebrity among social conservatives dedicated to fighting what they call "the gay agenda" in schools.
That movement is gaining steam, partly because polls indicate that teenagers are much more likely than the public at large to favor same-sex marriages and gay adoptions. Some conservatives see that as alarming proof that public schools are "indoctrinating" children.
They blame events such as the Day of Silence, when students in thousands of middle and high schools remain silent to express solidarity with gay and lesbian classmates. They also protest what they see as subtler messages, such as library books featuring gay and lesbian characters.
Several websites offer parents advice for challenging neutral or positive material about gays and lesbians in schools. One tip: Demand equal time for presentations from "ex-gays" who have gone straight. Another: Assert that homosexuality is not a valid example of diversity because it's a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.
Using such tactics, parents in Montgomery County, Md., recently blocked a health curriculum that allowed teachers to initiate discussions of homosexuality. In Lawton, Okla., parents stopped plans for a student Gay-Straight Alliance.
The Parkers say they never expected to be on the front line of this cultural war.
They moved here a year and a half ago, when Parker's company relocated his division from New Jersey. (He declined to give his firm's name or his job description out of fear of bringing the controversy into his workplace.)
This town of 30,000, about 10 miles northwest of Boston, is overwhelmingly liberal. In the 2004 election, Sen. John F. Kerry won 72% of the vote here; four years earlier, Al Gore took 64%.
Still, the Parkers said they did not feel out of place with their conservative social values. They hung a cross by the front door, and settled in, delighted with the kindergarten curriculum.
But on Jan. 17, their son brought home a "diversity tote bag." (It was supposed to be an optional activity, but Tonia, 36, said she never saw a notice telling parents they could choose not to participate.)
The tote held recipes for ethnic dishes, puppets with varying shades of skin — and the book "Who's in a Family?," which includes a picture of a lesbian couple washing a poodle with their children. By presenting households with same-sex parents as a normal family grouping, David Parker said, the school "disenfranchises" anyone who holds opposing values.
His adversaries respond that far more people would be hurt if Parker's demands were met.
Imagine, they say, how bewildered a child of same-sex parents would feel if a classmate had to be escorted from the room whenever she mentioned her family. Imagine how her parents would feel if they had to take turns attending class events to avoid being seen as a couple.
"We're here," said Meg Soens, Estabrook PTA vice president. "Our kids are here. And we deserve to be treated in a way that's respectful and inclusive." Her kitchen is decorated with her children's artwork, including a crayon drawing of the family: Two boys, two girls, two moms.
Soens said she knew that some view her family with abhorrence. But some also rail against biracial marriage or divorce. Such intolerance, she said, doesn't belong in public schools.
Supt. Ash adds a practical concern: If parents can opt out of a kindergarten unit on the family, what's to stop them from pulling their children out of a biology class on evolution, or any other lesson that contradicts their faith?
"You're either a full-time student or you're not a student," Ash said. "Parents can't pick and choose what they want their kids to study."
Like many states, Massachusetts does permit parents to remove their children from any lesson that centers on "human sexual education or human sexuality issues."
Ash argues that tolerance education doesn't qualify because it's about citizenship.
"We're not proselytizing," Ash said. "We're not advocating. We're just providing children with a realistic picture of what their community is like."
Parker counters that much of the country holds views similar to his. National polls show that about 50% of adults consider homosexual relations to be morally wrong.
If the goal is a realistic look at the world, why not also present those views?
Or, if that's not politically correct, why not leave the topic to parents?
"I'm not trying to deny that there are same-sex couples," Parker said. "We know that's the reality. But I want to guide my child when it comes to this issue."
Because their dispute became public, the Parkers said they felt they had to tell their older son about homosexuality much earlier than they would have liked. They told him he should never make fun of anyone. But they made clear that they believed a family with two moms or two dads was wrong.
They say they will keep fighting to make sure that's the only message their son hears.